cake

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

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When I was a kid my mother sometimes made macaroni-and-cheese using somewhat older, hard-around-the-edges American cheese that didn’t look fit to eat. I thought it was appalling.

But she told me that these cheese wasn’t spoiled, just hard because maybe it wasn’t wrapped quite so well, and that in any event she would never make any dish for us using an ingredient that could be harmful.

Of course.

And also, why waste perfectly good cheese that’s going to melt anyway. So if it isn’t perfect to eat cold, as is, it is perfectly fine for macaroni and cheese.

And it was. She made delicious macaroni and cheese.

My children are appalled if I use an ingredient that’s past its sell-by/expiration date. I feel the same way my mother did. I would never use an ingredient that is spoiled or harmful. But some of those expiration dates are meant more as a “use them soon because the flavor or texture won’t be perfect” than “do not eat this EVER!”

So recently, I noticed that in addition to some fresh bananas turned black-spotty, my snack packages of applesauce were a month beyond their expiration date. Rather than give the applesauce to my grandkids and have my daughters feel appalled, I used it in chocolate cake, in the place of eggs.

Not only was I able to use up a perfectly good ingredient, the cake was delicious and also a good vegan choice.

So there.

Chocolate-Banana-Applesauce Cake

  • 3 ounces semisweet chocolate

  • 1-1/3 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 2 medium ripe bananas

  • 1 cup sugar

  • 1/2 cup applesauce

  • 1/3 cup apple juice (or orange juice)

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8”x8” cake pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside to cool. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. Set the flour mixture aside. Mash the bananas and place them in the bowl of an electric mixer (or use a hand mixer and bowl). Add the sugar and mix at medium speed for a minute, or until well blended. Add the applesauce, juice, vanilla extract and melted chocolate and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until thoroughly blended. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes, or until throughly blended. Spoon the batter into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 9 servings

Plum Streusel Cake

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Even though it happens every year, somehow I am always sort of surprised that the Jewish holidays come in such a jumble. We celebrate one holiday on top of another and are busier than ever, observing and celebrating.

Not to mention — LOTS of food. 

I don't want to even count the calories.

And there's still Sukkot to come. 

This year I didn't make my usual Plum Torte for Rosh Hashanah. I needed a change of some of my menu items.

But I still can't resist those once a year Italian-style prune plums (President/Empress plums), so I decided to use them for this Plum Streusel Cake. It turned out to be one of my favorites during the holiday.

If you are still looking for a fabulous dessert for Sukkot -- try this one. Btw, you can make this with any variety of plum. But plum season is almost over, so do take advantage while you can.

 

Plum Streusel Cake

Streusel:

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar

  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Place the sugar, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and mix until well blended. Pour in the butter and blend it in. Let stand for 4-5 minutes, then crumble the mixture using your fingers. Set aside.

Cake:

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/2 cup sugar

  • 1 tablespoon baking powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon peel

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 cup milk

  • 6-8 Empress plums, sliced, pit removed (President plums, 10-12 Italian prune plums)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Make the streusel and set it aside. Lightly grease a 9-inch springform pan. Melt the butter and set it aside to cool. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and lemon peel in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, combine the eggs, milk and melted butter. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry ones and stir only to combine: do not overbeat. Turn the batter into the prepared cake pan. Top with the plum slices. Cover with the streusel. Bake for about 45 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 15 minutes. Remove the outer ring from the pan and let the cake cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8

Rhubarb Oat Bread

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You know how, when you have company for dinner and you make a lot of food, you sometimes forget to serve one (or more) of the dishes you cooked?

I did that recently. I made stewed rhubarb because my brother was coming to my house for dinner and it's one of his favorite things to eat.

Not only did I forget to serve it, I forgot about it in the fridge for a couple of days.

It was still good, of course, and we ate some, but there was some left over too.

So I made banana bread but used the stewed rhubarb instead of mashed bananas. (Also added some lemon peel which I thought would work nicely with rhubarb.)

Voila! This is sometimes how good recipes are born. It was well-loved.

And if you don't have stewed rhubarb, you could use applesauce or mashed banana.

 

Rhubarb Oat Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup quick cooking oats
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons grated fresh lemon peel
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1-1/3 cups stewed rhubarb
  • 4 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, oats, baking soda, salt and lemon peel together in a bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer beat the coconut oil, vegetable shortening and sugar at medium speed until well blended, about one minute. Add the rhubarb and blend it in thoroughly. Add the eggs and beat the ingredients well. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 12-16

 

 

Strawberry Shortcake (Without the cake)

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The strawberries are fabulous right now -- the local ones anyway. They're sweet, juicy and fragrant. They're small to medium rather than gigantic -- like the year-round supermarket staples, which are dry, tasteless and smell like plastic. The strawberries you can buy now are the kind I remember strawberries from long ago, (especially the ones I picked right off the plants in my parents' garden).

If you are lucky enough to get good, seasonal strawberries, try this recipe. I call it Strawberry Shortcake without Cake because the whipped cream mixture, which is made with mascarpone cheese, is thick, almost like a really moist cake, and yet it is sort of like whipped cream.

So easy too!

Remember this recipe next Passover. Or Valentine's Day. Or July 4th for that matter!

Make the cream part ahead and top it with berries just before you serve it. Lovely with coffee or tea and also an after dinner drink (brandy and so on).

Strawberry Shortcake without Cake

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese (or use whipped cream cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry the berries and remove the hulls. Make incisions into each berry as if to cut slices but do not slice through. Set aside. Whip the cream and mascarpone cheese with the sugar and orange peel until the mixture is thick. Fold in the Balsamic vinegar. Spoon equal amounts of the cheese mixture onto 4-6 dessert plates. Place sliced strawberries on top, gently moving the “almost” slices to fan them slightly.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Banana Crunch Cake

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I am always amazed at the amount of fruit that I buy -- and that is consumed -- when my children and grandkids come. Quarts of berries of all kinds. Mangoes, pineapples, grapes and kiwi fruit. In season, also stone fruit such as peaches, fresh apricots, plums and so on.

Plus oranges, clementines, grapefruit.

Apples of course.

And bananas. Lots of bananas.

Usually I am left with nothing, which is why I am always amazed, just at the sheer quantity of what has been eaten.

And I am not complaining at the lack of leftovers! Eating fruit is a good thing. Glad my family is good with that.

IF and when I have leftover bananas I use them for banana bread or cake. I have so many different recipes it's difficult to choose one or another, so I often come up with something new.

Like this. The crunchy crust gets it one step beyond homey, making this suitable for company.

 

Banana Crunch Cake

Crust:

  • 1 cup crushed raisin bran or similar flakes
  • 1 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 6 tablespoons liquid coconut oil (or use melted butter)

Combine the cereal, oats, brown sugar and cinnamon in a bowl. Pour in the coconut oil and mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly coated. Set aside. 

Cake:

  • 1-2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9-inch square baking pan. Make the crust and set it aside. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a small bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the vegetable shortening and sugar together at medium speed for 2-3 minutes or until creamy and well blended. Add the eggs and bananas and beat the ingredients for another 2-3 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Mix the water and lemon juice together. Add the flour mixture alternating with the lemon-water and blend in ingredients thoroughly. Stir in the vanilla extract. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Cover the top evenly with the crust mixture. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes 12-16 servings

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge Brownies

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I have told my husband not to buy me chocolate candy for Valentine's Day.

Sure, I love the thought, not to mention the taste (he knows how much I love buttercrunch!!!!!!).

But really, I need to NOT EAT candy for a variety of reasons including the number I see on the scale when I weigh myself each morning.

For Valentine's Day I am going to make brownies, which will be sufficient for the two of us to celebrate with a piece or two, then give the rest away to a friend of mine who loves sweets.

Then it will all be gone, we will have had a delicious, but calorie-limited Valentine's Day and that will be that until the next occasion.

 

Valentine's Day Chocolate Fudge BROWNIES

  • 3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square baking pan.  Melt the chocolate and butter together in the top part of a double boiler set over barely simmering water. When the ingredients have melted, blend them thoroughly and remove the pan from the heat. Combine the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and beat them 2-3 minutes or until the mixture is thick and pale. Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and stir this mixture into the chocolate mixture. Stir in the vanilla extract and nuts, if used. Spoon the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool the brownies in the pan. Cut them into 16 squares.

Makes 16

Banana Fruit Cake

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I don't celebrate Christmas but I do love Christmas fruitcake. You know, the kind everyone makes fun of and laughs about.

So sue me. I like fruitcake. The kind that those in the know bake around Thanksgiving time, wrap in cheesecloth and soak in booze so it will mellow and be ready at Christmas.

My friend Vaughan Mitchell, z"l gave me one of the best fruitcake recipes ever. It was one of his family treasured recipes, from his Grandmother Sue. He and I used to tinker with her recipe every year, add a little of this or that, change the alcohol, add a new fruit or something and then exchange our yearly version every December.

I miss him, our correspondence and the fruitcakes.

I don't make fruitcake anymore because, with the exception of my son-in-law Greg, I am the only person who eats it. 

So this year I decided that, rather than make a fruitcake for just two of us, I would use the best of what I love about fruitcake -- the dried and candied fruit and the booze -- and combine it with banana bread, which everyone likes. And I'll see how it all goes down.

Here's the recipe. The only problem is that I can't eat it because I am allergic to bananas.

So maybe next year maybe I will bake a half recipe of my standard fruitcake plus this. 

Banana Fruit cake

  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated fresh nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 large very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 4 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups diced dried and/or candied fruit
  • bourbon or brandy, optional

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch (8-cup) bundt pan. Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking soda together in a bowl. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the shortening and sugar until well blended. Add the bananas and blend in thoroughly. Add the eggs and vanilla extract and beat well. Add the flour mixture and beat until batter is well blended. Fold in the dried/candied fruit. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and, if desired, brush the surface with 2-3 tablespoons of bourbon or brandy. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one cake, serving 16-18

 

Pumpkin Sour Cream Coffee Cake

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I used to bake a fresh pumpkin when it was time to make the usual seasonal pumpkin pies and cakes. I'd buy one of those small, round, sweet "sugar" pumpkins, carve it up, sprinkle the pieces with salt and give it a roast until the flesh was tender.

It was all good. The house smelled like autumn, the pumpkin was nice and dry -- perfect for baked goods.

But.

I got busy. And sometimes I couldn't find the right variety of pumpkin.

So I switched to canned.

You know what? We didn't even notice the difference when it came to my favorite pumpkin coffee cake.

So, make it easy on yourself. Use canned pumpkin if you wish (but not pumpkin pie mix, which is pre-seasoned). Or fresh baked pumpkin of course, if you can find a good variety and have the time to roast it. 

Either way, this cake is rich and gently fragrant. It has a wonderful salty-sweet balance.

You can freeze it too.

PUMPKIN SOUR CREAM COFFEE CAKE

STREUSEL TOPPING:

  • 1/3 cup old fashioned oats
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons cold butter

CAKE:

  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed pumpkin (canned is fine; not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/3 cup sour cream
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly grated orange peel
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup milk

 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease an 8" square cake pan. Make the streusel: place the oats, flour, brown sugar and salt in a bowl. Add the butter and work it into the dry ingredients with your fingers, a pastry blender or two knives until the mixture is crumbly. Set the streusel aside.

Make the cake batter: beat the sugar and butter together with a hand mixer or electric mixer set at medium speed for 1-2 minutes or until the mixture is smooth and creamy. Add the pumpkin, sour cream, egg and orange peel and beat the ingredients for 1-2 minutes or until they are smooth. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg and salt in a bowl. Add 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and beat the ingredients until they are blended. Add 1/2 of the milk and beat this in until it is well blended. Repeat this process again until all the flour and milk have been used up. Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel over the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 minutes then carefully invert the cake onto a cake rack, carefully flip it right side up. Let cool completely.

Makes one cake serving 8-10 people

My Bat Mitzvah Chocolate Cake

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Today is the anniversary of my Bat Mitzvah. It took place a LONG time ago! In the 1950s to tell you the truth.

Back in the day Bat Mitzvahs were not such a thing. In fact, I was the first girl from our newly established synagogue to reach this momentous occasion.

I have to confess, our rabbi mentioned the notion when we first joined the synagogue and I told my parents I wanted to learn some Hebrew and prayers and do whatever I had to, not so much because I had any particular religious feelings, nor was it because I wanted a big party -- the big themed events we see today didn't exist back then -- but because my two older brothers had Bar Mitzvahs and I couldn't understand why a girl wouldn't be treated equally.

My mother always said that when I was born I came out a feminist.

Still am. (So was she.)

Girls are equal to boys, women to men. Let's not even contest that one.

Still, my brothers did have a Saturday Shabbat service Bar Mitzvah and I was only allowed to have one on Friday night. I was content with that, it was a start.

We had a small party at home. I was allowed to invite one friend, and of course my family was there -- aunts, uncles, cousins, including my cousin Leslie, who, to this day, is like a sister.

I remember my dress: white with red and black lines. 

I don't remember what my Mother made for food.

But I do remember dessert. Because I made it: a dark chocolate cake with fudge frosting.

I didn't keep the recipe. I don't actually know whose recipe I used. I just remember what it looked like and that it tasted fabulous and that I made the cake for my own Bat Mitzvah.

So today I celebrate with Chocolate Cake. This one is a riff on the famous Hershey Black Cake with a few changes to make it dairy-free, less sweet and more to my tastes (you can change the frosting to dairy using 12 tablespoons of butter in place of the coconut milk and coconut oil). 

This is a good cake for a festive occasion, even one's own Bat Mitzvah.

Black Chocolate Cake

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • water
  • 1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1-1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup strong, cooled coffee
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • frosting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease 3 9-inch cake pans. Pour the lemon juice into a liquid (pitcher) measuring cup and add enough water to measure one cup. Set aside. Place the flour, cocoa, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer and mix at low speed to combine the ingredients. Add the eggs, the lemon-water, coffee, vegetable oil and vanilla extract and beat the ingredients at medium speed for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally, or until well combined and smooth. Pour equal amounts of the batter into the prepared pans. Bake for 22-25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool for 10 minutes. Invert the layers onto a cake rack to cool completely. Frost and serve.

Makes 8-10 servings

Frosting

  • 1-1/2 cups dairy-free semisweet chocolate chips
  • 6 tablespoons coconut milk
  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • pinch of salt

Place the chocolate chips, coconut milk and coconut oil in a saucepan and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the chips have melted and the mixture is smooth and uniform. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the vanilla extract, confectioners’ sugar and salt. Let cool, whisking the ingredients occasionally. Refrigerate until firm enough to be spreadable.

 

Banana Marble Cake

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Whenever my mother had leftover sour cream that was still safe to eat but had been hanging around the fridge for too long for it to taste fresh, she would use it to bake something. Like her marble cake. 

That cake was a simple wonder. Tender, vaguely sweet, with just enough melted chocolate swirling through the vanilla crumb. Rarely frosted, we ate it like coffee cake, just as is.

I've made that cake many times, and for the same reasons. Leftover sour cream (I also use leftover plain Greek yogurt when I have some). I've made it the original way and with coconut oil in place of shortening. 

Recently I had sour cream and yogurt leftover, the not exactly new kind.

I also had bananas left over. I always have bananas left over. I usually make banana bread with the leftover bananas.

So I took a cue from my mother and decided to bake marble cake. Using bananas.

So good.

Banana Marble Cake

  • 4 ounces semisweet chocolate
  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 4 very ripe medium bananas, mashed
  • 1 cup dairy sour cream or plain Greek yogurt 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a (10-inch) 8-cup bundt pan. Melt the chocolate and set it aside. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer set at medium speed, beat the sugar and eggs for 2-3 minutes or until well blended. Add the vanilla extract and vegetable oil and beat for 1-2 minutes or until thoroughly blended. Add the bananas and sour cream and beat them in. Add the flour mixture and beat for 1-2 minutes or until the batter is well blended. Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Pour in half the melted chocolate and swirl it into the batter using a knife or wooden spoon. Repeat with the remaining batter and melted chocolate. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove to a cake rack to cool completely.

Makes one bread, serving 12-16